This is our old blog. It hasn't been active since 2011. Please see the link above for our current blog or click the logo above to see all of the great data and content on this site.

3B to LF

Posted by Andy on January 31, 2008

I see that the Brewers are planning to move reigning AL ROY Ryan Braun from 3B (where he was pretty bad defensively) to LF next year.

It got me to wondering how often that's happened before. I recall that Pat Burrell was a 3B when the Phillies drafted him, but he was blocked by Scott Rolen. They first moved Burrell to 1B, but eventually to LF, which is where he has played most of his major-league ball. (In fact, he's played 58 ML games at 1B, all in his first year, and exclusively has played LF or DH since then.)

Anyway, I tried to come up with a search that might show a guy who played both 3B and LF a lot early in his career. This is what I came up with (although it's definitely not that great): Within the first

  Cnt Player            Year From  To   Ages   G    PA    AB    R    H   2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  IBB  SO  HBP  SH  SF GDP  SB   CS   BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  Positions Teams
    1 Miguel Cabrera    2007 2003 2007 20-24  720  3072  2694  449  842 183  10 138  523  322  70  592  25   5  26  87   17  11  .313  .388  .542  .930 *579/D    FLA         
    2 Mike Edwards      2006 2003 2006 26-29  106   282   259   24   63   9   2   3   15   19   0   40   2   2   0   7    1   1  .243  .300  .328  .628 /57D96    OAK-LAD-PIT 
    3 Russell Branyan   2002 1998 2002 22-26  326  1062   928  134  213  38   5  61  154  114   5  380  10   0  10   9    5   4  .230  .317  .478  .795 75/D39    CLE-TOT     
    4 Kevin Mitchell    1989 1984 1989 22-27  548  2099  1854  279  509 101  17 100  319  216  43  352  11   2  16  31   20  19  .275  .351  .509  .860 57/9683   NYM-TOT-SFG 
    5 Steve Braun       1975 1971 1975 23-27  629  2339  2012  260  569  91  11  32  212  289  22  242  13  11  14  45   20  17  .283  .374  .387  .761 57/46D39  MIN         
    6 Bill McNulty      1972 1969 1972 22-25    9    29    27    0    1   0   0   0    0    2   0   11   0   0   0   0    0   0  .037  .103  .037  .140 /*75      OAK         
    7 Jim Dyck          1955 1951 1955 29-33  301  1085   949  131  236  50   5  26  114  118   1  130   7  11   0  26    4   6  .249  .336  .394  .730 57/89     SLB-CLE-BAL 
    8 Ralph Hodgin      1947 1939 1947 24-32  416  1463  1358  170  393  68  19   3  154   76   0   52  17  12   0  38    7   7  .289  .335  .374  .709 75/9      BSN-CHW     
    9 Bobby Estalella   1942 1935 1942 24-31  289  1023   852  135  234  50  14  18  130  164   0   94   4   3   0  30    8   5  .275  .394  .430  .824 7/598     WSH-SLB     
   10 Cozy Dolan        1914 1909 1914 19-24  267   989   865  157  209  29  12   4   73   87   0  109   9  28   0   0   85   0  .242  .317  .317  .634 5/798     CIN-NYY-TOT-STL 
   11 Scotty Ingerton   1911 1911 1911 25-25  136   575   521   63  130  24   4   5   61   39   0   68   2  13   0   0    6   0  .250  .304  .340  .644 /573469   BSN         
   12 Emil Batch        1907 1904 1907 24-27  348  1361  1253  134  315  38  22   7   98   65   0    0   3  40   0   0   37   0  .251  .290  .334  .624 *57/9864  BRO         
   13 Jim Delahanty     1906 1901 1906 22-27  406  1591  1428  176  385  62  20   9  161  104   0    0  30  29   0   0   54   0  .270  .332  .360  .692 *57/49618 CHC-NYG-BSN-CIN 

How many of these guys actually qualify as having switched from 3B to LF? Cabrera has basically gone the other way, from LF to 3B. Edwards hasn't played enough games to be relevant. Branyan has played all around each year. Kevin Mitchell qualifies for the most part, playing most of his games at 3B until moving to LF with the Giants in 1989, although he did play a bunch of OF before that. Same story with Steve Braun. only 9 games for McNulty. Dyck played both positions most years. Alot fo the rest of the guys played in various positions from year to year. Delahanty actually switched from 3B to OF, then back to 3B, then to other positions.

So I didn't find anybody who fit all that well.

Using some other searches for just the first 3 years of a career, I also found Jack Howell and Phil Nevin, but again neither really qualifies all that well.

As it's currently set up, the PI isn't well-suited to this type of search. I think we might have to rely on actual memories of fans. So--who can remember somebody who made the switch from 3B to LF?


10 Responses to “3B to LF”

  1. Jon Weisman Says:

    Don't know if this is exactly what you're looking for, but Pedro Guerrero:

    1983: 157 games at third base
    1984: 76 games at third base, 58 in the outfield
    1985: 44 games at third base, 81 in the outfield
    1986-87: played only outfield and first base

  2. BunnyWrangler Says:

    Chipper Jones did this.

    In late 2001, the Braves made it clear that they were thinking about this move when they signed Ken Caminiti. Caminiti was placed in an odd platoon with B.J. Surhoff; Surhoff, a left-handed hitter, would play left field against righties, and Caminiti, a switch-hitter, would play against righties, but he would play third base, and Chipper Jones would move out to left field. Getting a right-handed bat was probably part of the motive behind this decision, but the Braves were probably also tiring of Chipper's shoddy defense at third base. Actually, Jones had been slated to start in left field for the Braves back in 1994, but he got injured and missed the entire season, which pushed his rookie season back to 1995.

    In the offseason, the Braves made Chipper their full-time left fielder by signing Vinny Castilla to play third. Two of the groups who attempt to rate defensive contributions, Total Baseball and Baseball Prospectus, has Chipper Jones as an awful third baseman and a decent left fielder (at least in 2002), which helped to make up for his slight decline in offense. The papers praised Jones for his lack of selfishness, but, at some point early in 2002, Jones explicity stated that he didn;t want to force anyone out of the lineup, but he really wanted to move back to third. He got a pass for this somehow, possibly because he never did force Castilla out of the lineup by moving back to third.

    Castilla left via free agency after 2003, but Jones stayed put in left, and the Braves decided to play Mark DeRosa at third base. Two things happened to put Chipper Jones back at the hot corner. For one, Chipper got injured chasing a ball in left field, at which point he changed from a dependable player who was in almost every game to the injury-prone player who he is today. Second, Mark DeRosa did not hit well and also had a memorable four-error game against Colorado, which made the Braves wonder if having him at third really provided much of a defensive advantage.

    When Jones returned from his injury, he moved back to third, DeRosa moved to the bench, and minor leaguer Charles Thomas platooned in left field with right-handed hitter Eli Marrero. Jones suffered through probably his worst offensive season ever before he rebounded in 2005. DeRosa finished his final season as a Brave by tearing his ACL in the game after the Braves clinched the division title. Thomas had a good season, and the outfield of Thomas in left, Andruw Jones in center, and J.D. Drew in right was nicknamed the "kudzu outfield" for their ability to cover the outfield as well as kudzu covers trees. Thomas was traded to the A's in the offseason as part of the Tim Hudson deal and has never approached his 2004 numbers since.

    To answer your question, yes, Chipper Jones has moved from third base to left field, although he did it much later in his career than Braun did it in his. I believe that Phil Nevin, later in his career, tried to do this, but got injured diving for a ball in the outfield in spring training. I also believe that B.J. Surhoff started out as a catcher, moved to third base, and then moved to left field. Albert Pujols, too, started out at third and ended up in left before he moved to first base. Those are all of the guys of whom I can think right now.

  3. mrbaseballcard Says:


    I was going to say Chipper Jones and Pedro Guerrero is another good one. I believe Pete Rose also played 3rd for the Big Red Machines in 75, 76, 77, 78 and when bench moved to third played both left and 1B with the Reds, Phillies and Expoes.

  4. mrbaseballcard Says:


    Dick Allen? Believe Dr. Strangeglove moved from 3B to the OF.

  5. BunnyWrangler Says:

    I looked it up - really, of the guys I listed, only Chipper Jones qualifies.

  6. David in Toledo Says:

    Methodology question: Does "early in his career" mean that Pedro Guerrero qualifies and Chipper Jones doesn't?

    Another research question involves WHY such a shift is made. In almost every case, I assume the switch comes because of poor defense in the infield, or because a player new to the roster can play only third base. (Steve Sax became primarily an outfielder at age 33; Al Rosen was switched from third to first -- disastrously -- in 1954 to make room for Rudy Regalado. Compared to a left-field destination, even more off-of-third shifts may go to first base, as in the case of Steve Garvey.)

    I wish I knew how to find the records that would confirm the following, but I'm pretty sure that Minnie Minoso was primarily a third baseman in the Cuban and Negro Leagues. I don't know where he played at San Diego in the PCL in 1949 and 1950. In his rookie year, however, Minoso played 68 games at third. Then he went on to win three Gold Gloves at ages 31-34 as a left fielder.

    Minoso is a pretty unusual case of an outstanding fielder involved in a switch. These multiposition guys we've been discussing lately are usually, I think, adequate but ordinary in the field. If they were great, somebody would put them at short or in center field and leave them there.

  7. zuty Says:


    Yes, Dick Allen did this...

    1964: 162 games at 3B
    1965: 160 games at 3B
    1966: 91 games at 3B; 47 at LF
    1967: 121 games at 3B
    1968: 139 games at LF; 10 at 3B

    After being exclusively a FIRST baseman in 1969, he jumped around mostly between 3B and 1B after that (except for 60 games at LF in 1971).

    Andy's right, though, that the PI doesn't help much for searches like this. But I did one anyway, looking for players who possessed at least one season in which they played a minimum of 100 games and at least 30 each at 3B and LF... Looking at the results points out a few other players who moved from 3B to LF at some point in their careers:

    - Frank Thomas was an all-star third baseman in 1958 for Pittsburgh, and while splitting time between 1B-3B-LF, played MOST of the rest of his career in left (for six other teams).
    - In 1965, Deron Johnson started 159 games at 3B for Cincinnati. In 1966, he played 106 in left field. He also played that season at 3B and 1B, and spent most of the rest of his career at first base.
    - Tommy Harper was an all-star third baseman for Milwaukee in 1970. He spent most of his career scattered all over the outfield, but in 1973, he played almost exclusively in left field (139 of 144 games). Oddly, in 1972, he played exclusively in center field...
    - Hector Lopez (Royals and Yankees, 1955-66) played mostly third base in his first three years, split some time between third and second for a year or so, and then moved to left when he joined the Yankees in 1959.
    - Don Buford (White Sox and Orioles, 1963-72) started as a second baseman before shifting over to third. When his career took him to Baltimore, he also moved into left field (and made his lone all-star appearance in 1971, when he played exclusively left field for Baltimore).

    ...I don't know what this says about Ryan Braun. I hope he has a productive career. I don't have a lot of faith in the Brewers this season, but we'll see...!

  8. David in Toledo Says:

    Good work, Zuty. However, many of these guys were very challenged in the field. The old (1958) Frank Thomas was not an "all-star third baseman." He was a 1958 All-Star who was positioned that year at third base.

  9. Raphy Says:

    Regarding #6. David, I don't know how much verification you were looking for, but according to his BR Bullpen page, Minoso was the starting 3rd baseman in the '47 and '48 Negro League All star games.

  10. wboenig2 Says:

    This is about 150 feet off topic, but the Mets tried to make a center fielder out of Howard Johnson in 1992. He played 98 games in the outfield that year (and was never the same).